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Analytical Psychology And Buddhism.....

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Posted by Glenn on October 9, 2001 02:08:58 UTC

Let me share this article that somehow would help you....

by Erika Gsell

In this brief paper I would like to compare some aspects of Buddhism, in the theoretical and practical approach of Nichiren Daishonin, with some aspects of Jungian analytical psychology. Searching on Internet I discovered that several other authors have already compared Buddhism with Jungian analytical psychology, thus confirming my "suspicion" that these two ways of spiritual and psychological development are somehow not only linked but also very similar in many aspects.

Eric Pettifor (1) has, for example stressed the parallel between Zen Buddhism and Analytical Psychology, in the sense that, he writes, "both paths are transformational. The paradox in each of them is that the transformation is becoming more oneself, one's true self".

While Chuan Yuan Shakya (2) considers the possibility of the positive integration of the two approaches: "Jung's Depth Psychology tells us why we are the way we are. Zen provides the methodology by which we can change the way we are. And, in advanced spiritual states, the generic rationale, the "dramatic plot" of alchemy's androgyny, as well as the gestation and delivery of the Divine Child, or Lapis, is supplied by Jung while the methodology, i.e. the various meditation disciplines supplied by Zen or Taoist techniques". I would agree with both authors because I find in Buddhism, at least in Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, parallel as well as integrative aspects to the Analytical Psychology of Carl Gustav Jung.

On the one hand I find similarities between the Buddhist law of cause and effect and Jung's concept of synchronicity; the Buddhist karma and the Jungian archetype; the Buddhist ninth level of consciousness and the Jungian collective unconscious and, finally, between the Buddhist and Jungian concepts of spirit, matter and time.

On the other hand, I consider that the chanting of the mantra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the basic aspect of the theory and practice of Nishiren Daishonin's teachings of Buddhism, can be of great help not only to understand but also transform very deep levels of our psyche. I personally dare hypothesize that the changes which occur through the chanting of the mantra can be considered a synchronistic phenomenon.

Main concepts of Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the law of cause and effect, and karma

Central to the Buddhist doctrine of Nichiren Daishonin, which was founded in Japan in 1253, is the daily chanting of the mantra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Myoho-renge-kyo is the title of the Lotus-Sutra and literally signifies " Mystical law of the Lotus-Sutra (Myoho: mystical law; renge: lotus; kyo: sutra). The preceding Nam means: to dedicate one's life. Therefore, "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" as a whole means "I dedicate my life to the mystical law of the Lotus-Sutra. I will shortly try to explain, on the basis of Buddhist literature (3-9), the meaning of the single components of this mantra, and then stress the main underlying principles, which I would like to compare with Jung's analytical psychology.

Myoho means "mystical law," and expresses the connection between life and its infinite manifestations. It explains the relation and reciprocal influence between life and all its phenomena. Myoho is the universal principle, according to which the energy of life has its effects on a human being. Myoho also refers to the eternal rhythm of life and death. Renge, which means lotus flower, is the law of the simultaneousness of cause and effect The lotus flower is considered the symbol of the simultaneousness of cause and effect, because it produces seeds and flowers at the same time.

The concept of cause and effect is one of the basic principles of the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. According to Buddhism, there is no effect without cause and each cause must have an effect, independent of the time it takes for it to appear. However, as Causton states, the Buddhist notion of causality goes far beyond scientific observation of the connection between cause and effect. It implies a deep analysis of the essence of life and takes into account the possibility of "an intrinsical cause" and a "latent effect" interacting with the environment. Buddhism thus distinguishes between two types of causes and effects: on the one hand an "external cause" and a "manifest effect" and on the other hand an "interior cause" and a "latent effect".

Buddhism teaches that on a deeper level, cause and effect are simultaneous, because the present instant is the result of all causes, which have been defined since the infinite past, and the beginning of everything which will happen in the future.

Tightly linked with the law of cause and effect is the concept of karma. "Karma" is a Sanskrit word meaning "action". It indicates that as a consequence of the law of cause and effect, each action creates a future action, and this produces an uninterrupted eternal chain. On the one hand we put our karma into existence through thoughts, words, and deeds. On the other hand, each thought, each word, and each deed expresses our karma. Some effects of these causes are latent, they still have to come to the surface, whereas those which have already appeared represent our present situation. Karma, therefore, is not a force which lies outside us, because it is in fact the totality of causes and effects which we have established in the past and which have a deep influence on our present actions.

We then come to the last component. Kyo literally means "Sutra," i.e. the voice or teaching of a Buddha. In a derivated form it signifies sound, rhythm, vibration and therefore it also means the practice of chanting. Furthermore, as all phenomena of the Universe are reciprocally linked through the vibration of the different waves, Kyo also refers to the vital energy of universal phenomena and means that everything which exists, has always existed, and will always exist, is an expression of the mystical law. Kyo refers to the continuity of past, present and future, and, in reference to the title of the Lotussutra, it indicates the fact that the ultimate truth of existence, as described in the Lotussutra, is eternal and immutable. There is, as Buddhism affirms, no distinction between past, present and future, as they are created through our consciousness. Buddhism, through the doctrine of Ichinen Sanzen, also asserts that the whole Universe is contained in only one instant of life and that each moment of life shapes the entire Universe.

Nine levels of consciousness

In the human psyche, according to Buddhism, nine levels of consciousness exist. The first five correspond to the five senses and are called: eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness. The remaining four are levels of mind consciousness. The sixth level of consciousness controls the perception of the outer and material world. The seventh level concerns our inner and spiritual world and guides our capacity for thought and judgement. The eighth level is the "store" of karma (alaya). The ninth level of consciousness is the basis of all spirituality and is called Amala, which means pure and uncontaminated.

According to the principle of the eternity of life, Buddhism declares that the eighth level of consciousness not only contains the experiences of this life, but also those which the essence of our existence has accumulated in the eternal past. When we sleep, states Causton (5), the first seven levels of consciusness fall asleep with us, and are replaced by the eighth. We forget the outer world and lose consciousness of space and time. The more the conscious psyche relaxes, the more thoughts, words and deeds, stored in the eighth consciousness, escape from conscious control and constitute the dream. However, during sleep, a level of unconsciousness seems to exist, which is even deeper than the one we live in dreams. This could be, according to Buddhism, the proof of the existence of a ninth level of consciousness, a state which expresses the essence of our life, the pure and inexhaustible vital energy of the Universe. In other words, according to Buddhism, the ninth level of consciousness represents the source of energy for all our spiritual and pychic activity and supports us for the eternity. Nichiren Daishonin identifies the ninth level of consciousness with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (5).

Psyche, matter and time

According to Buddhism, there is no division between physical and psychological aspects of life. The experience of the one influences the other. The life of each human being is eternal, because it is part of the Universe, which exists eternally . No human being can therefore be created or destroyed. The Buddhist concept of eternity of life is equivalent to the physical law of the conservation of energy and matter, according to which they are never dispersed, but are transformed into different forms. Buddhism furthermore affirms that the Universe has neither been created by an original cause nor moves towards a goal. Due to the capacity of regeneration, immanent in life itself, the universe has always existed.

Effects of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

The chanting of this Mantra slowly awakens the inner illuminated nature. Nichiren Daishonin sees in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo the key which opens the door of the infinite potentialities, which lie hidden in the depth of the Self (5). To speak aloud the seven ideograms of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, says Nichiren Daishonin, may appear limited. But as this Mantra represents the great teaching of all the Buddhas of the past, present and future and allows all human beings to reach the Buddha nature, its chanting is unmeasurably deep (5).

The chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo leads to a deep understanding of the mystical verity. There is no division between the physical and psychological aspects of our life. The experience of one influences the other. Through chanting, we can transform ourselves, reinforce ourselves, and slowly reveal our Buddha nature, thus also changing the world around us. We can fight until the circumstances reach the level corresponding to our vital state Through the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we can open our life to the maximum, and develop our complete potential. We can, every moment of our life, start setting new causes in order to change the basic tendency of our life (karma) and achieve future luck based on Buddha nature.


In the following pages, I will synthesize, on the basis of Jungian literature (10-17), those concepts of Jungian analytical psychology which I would like to compare with the concepts of Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism discussed above.

Synchronicity and Causality

Jung uses the concept of synchronicity to describe the simultaneousness between a certain psychic situation and one or more external events. The two events, which temporally coincide, are however not causally related, but have the same or a similar sense. Or, in another Jungian formulation, synchronicity means simultaneousness of an ordinary situation with another situation or event which is causally not derivable from the first, and whose objectivity can be verified only later in time. Marie Louise von Franz however, on the one hand stresses that simultaneousness, which characterizes synchronistic experiences, is not absolute but relative, because the two events often occur at a ( sometimes short) distance of time. On the other hand, she states that the synchronistic phenomenon, in which the same sense manifests itself in the psyche and in the disposition of a simultaneous external event, shows that there apparently exists an a priori knowledge of something which cannot be known at a certain moment, which Jung calls "absolute knowldege". Synchronicity, Jung says, presupposes a sense which in respect to the human consciousness is a priori, a sense which seems to be external to the person.

Synchronistic experiences are unique experiences. Even an unique experience can however, if it is situated in the archetypical context, provide us with further information. This is exactly what happens with synchronistic elements even though they do not repeat themselves and do not allow any experimental reproduction. Synchronistic phenomena are creative acts. They can therefore not be foreseen. But, according to Jung, they do however not occur completely outside any possibility of prediction either, but remain inside certain fields of probability of acausal coordination. Jung has hypothesized that synchronistic events are only a particular case of a general acausal order. The form of this a priori psychic order, which can be recognized through introspection, is the archetype. The archetype is not the cause of synchronisctic events, but synchronicity is only a particular case of the acausal order, which appears or manifests itself in those phenomena, without provoking them.

Synchronistic phenonema, which can also be called moments during which psyche and matter no longer appear as separate realities but are coordinated in an unique meaningful situation, occur when an archetype imposes itself. The activation of an archetypal content takes place when a person is in an excited state, i.e. in a strong emotional tension. Synchronistic events are therefore dependent on affect. According to Jung, people's faith in the effectiveness of prayer is based on the experience of concomitant, synchronistic events. Von Franz considers magic healings to be synchronistic phenomena.

Jung excludes the element of causality in synchronistic events because in archetypal conditions space and time appear reduced to zero while causality is linked to the existence of space and time and of moving bodies. Von Franz says that Jung has simply hypothesized, like all physicists today, that causality implies an interaction which should be demonstrable in a space-time-continuum. For Jung, all other expressions mean an extension of the concept of causality which is a contradictio in adjecto.

Collective unconscious and the archetype

According to Jung, only the superficial layer of our unconcious is personal. A much deeper layer does however not develop individually; it is inherited. Jung has called this part of the unconscious, which does not have an individual but a general nature, which does not derive from personal experience, but is innate, the collective unconscious. Jung states that unlike the contents of the personal unconscious, which initially were conscious and then became unconscious, because they were forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious were never previously conscious and are not acquired individually. Jung has called these innate dispositions or pre-existent forms of our psyche archetypes. The real essence of the archetype, states Jung, cannot be perceived consciously, it is transcendent. He therefore called it psychoid. As psychoid, unrepresentable data, archetypes are unclear and can only approximatively be recognized and determined. Archetypes per se are absolutely unobservable structures. Only when they are stimulated through internal and external necessities, do they produce, in crucial moments, archetypal images, archetypal phantasies, thoughts, intuitions, etc. The archetypal images, which our unconscious transmits to us, should therefore not be confused with the archetypes per se. What we inherit are not the archetypal images, but the archetypal structure and disposition (also comparable with a pattern of behaviour) which then produce images which are almost the same everywhere and in all individuals.

Psyche and matter

(Based on two books by Marie-Louise von Franz (15,17), where the author has synthesized, interpreted and commented Jung's conception of psyche, matter, and time)

According to Marie Louise von Franz, Jung, with the introduction of the principle of synchronicity, made it possible to consider the fields of psyche and matter, which had hitherto been considered complementary, on an unitary basis. He confirmed the hypothesis that the reality which we introspectively try to describe as collective unconscious could be the same unknown and unknowable reality which atomic physicists trie to describe from outside, as a material reality. Synchronistic phenomena, she says, contradict our constituted opinion according to which the subjective psyche is something different from objective matter. The deepest layer of our psyche is, as Jung states, pure nature. It is nature which contains everything, matter included.

Psyche and matter can be considered different forms of an identical manifestation of energy, the one of low frequency, extended in time and space, the other of pure intensity. According to Jung, psyche and matter probably are but two aspects of the same secret of life , which he calls unus mundus, one world. Jung has defined the psyche (=collective unconscious) as a sphere of reality which is situated, as a spectrum, between the infrared pole of material and bodily reactions, and the ultraviolet pole of the formal ordering structures: the archetypes. The two poles, Jung hypothesized, are one and the same unknown living essence, which is only perceived as different by our conscious psyche. When we are touched by external material or corporal stimuli, we call it matter, when we are touched from the inside, by phantasies, ideas, feelings, we call it objective psychic or unconscious. The collective unconscious is not only a structural and innate psychic identity of all human beings but also an omnipresent continuum, a present without extension. Therefore, if something, which touches the unconscious and moves to compassion, happens in a certain place, it happens simultaneously everywhere.


When we enter in contatct with the archetypal idea of the psyche, Jung writes, we feel as if we were in contact with the infinite. The archetypical world, he says, is situated outside of time, and is therefore eternal. Von Franz points out that Jung discovered that time becomes ever more relative the deeper we enter into the unconscious and that in certain spheres of the unconscious time seems to no longer exist. Whereas the Ego is situated completely inside of time, in a flowing of external and internal events, the personal unconscious is already only relatively connected with time. Whe we enter into the sphere of archetypal images, we find the much more extended time-dimension of millenarian aeons. On a even deeper level we find the aeons of the auto-renewal of the Self; the eternal archetypes, their unity-plurality and the Self; and finally the area of pure non-time.


1) Synchronicity and the law of cause and effect

As I mentioned in the introduction, I find that there are great similarities between the Buddhist law of cause and effect and Jung's concept of synchronicity, and I hypothesize that the changes which occur through the chanting of the mantra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can be considered a synchronistic phenomenon. My assertion may appear paradoxal, because, as we saw in the preceding pages, on the one hand we have to consider as synchronistic all those events in which a psychic situation and an external event, connected through sense (meaning) and not through causality, occur with relative simultaneousness; whereas on the other hand, according to the law of cause of effect there is no effect without cause and each cause must have an effect.

However, as Causton points out, we have to consider the Buddhist law of cause and effect not from the scientific point of view but from a a transcendent one; and it is from this perspective that Buddhism can declare that cause and effect are simultaneous. This is, according to my opinion, extremely near to what Jung means, when he says that the element of causality in synchronistic events has to be excluded, because causality presupposes a space-time continuum, whereas in archetypal (psychic) conditions space and time appear reduced to zero. Therefore an application of causality to that kind of event would represent a contradictio in adjecto.

Through the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we can, according to Buddhism, deeply understand the mystical verity, develop the potentialities of the Self, but also change the circumstances in the outer world, because the psychological and physical aspects of our life are not separated but influenced by each other.

We have previously seen that synchronistic phenomena can be considered situations in which psyche and matter no longer appear as separate realities, but are coordinated in an unique meaningful situation; and that these circumstances occur when an archetypical content is activated in a state of intense affect. The chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-can, in my opinion, strongly contributes to the induction of those states of intense affect in which an archetypical content is activated. And, as the archetype is considered the form of a general, acausal, a priori psychic order, of which synchronistic events represent a particular case, I dare hypothesize that the Jungian concept of archetype and the Buddhist concept of mystical law can be considered the expression of the same secret essence of life.

2) Karma and the archetype

As we have seen, there seem to be some analogies between the concepts of karma and archetype. On the one hand, karma has been defined as the totality of causes and effects which we put into existence in the past and which have a deep influence on our present actions; on the other hand, according to Jung, the collective unconscious, formed by the archetypes, is innate and inherited. The parallel emerges even more clearly from the following two quotations made by Mark Greene (18):

"In later editions of On the Psychology of the Unconscious", Green writes, "he (Jung) placed a footnote at the end of a description of the collective unconscious where he describes it as containing the '...legacy of ancestral life, the mythological images: these are the archetypes...' and calls it 'a deliberate extension of the archetype by means of the karmic factor...(which is) essential to deeper understanding of the nature of an archetype' (CW, Vol. 7, p. 118n)." (18)
"Elsewhere Jung states that 'we may cautiously accept the idea of karma only if we understand it a psychic heredity in the very widest sense of the word. Psychic heredity does exist--that is to say, there is inheritance of psychic characteristics such as predisposition to disease, traits of character, special gifts, and so forth' (CW Vol. 11, p. 845)." (18)
However later in his paper Green states: "Jung continued to refute the notion of a personal karma since 'the main bulk of life is brought into existence out of sources that are hidden to us. Even complexes can start a century or more before a man is born. There is something like karma' (Letters, p. 436)." (18) Green further precises:

"Only later in his life did he begin to accept the possibility of a personal karma, more specific in its implications to a person's destiny than the collective attributes he had always assigned to it in helping him see corroboration of his theory of the collective unconscious in other religions. Jung connects the collective unconscious, ancestral memories and as yet unfilled out archetypal images with a sort of collective karma." (18)
At present, I have nothing to add to what Green stated in his work, in which he has accurately examined, and exhaustively written on, the subject.
3) Ninth level of consciousness and collective unconscious

According to Richard Causton (5) and Riccardo Venturini (9) the collective unconscious can be compared with the eighth level of consciousness, which contains the experiences of the past and is considered the "store of karma". Ikeda however [at least in (3)] does not, when he mentions Jung on the same subject, draw the same parallel. I therefore wonder if it might not also be possible to compare the collective unconscious with the ninth level of consciousness. I think that the parallel emerges from itself when we simply compare the description of the two concepts. On the one hand, the ninth level of consciousness can be considered the deepest level of unconsciousness, the expression of the the vital force of the Universe and is identified with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. On the other hand, the collective unconscious can be considered:
1) at its ultraviolet pole, i.e. at its deepest, archetypical level, a formal ordering structure situated outside of time and
2) in its whole extension, the expression of the unus mundus, the mysterious unity of spirit and matter, the secret essence of life.

4) Psyche, matter and time

The similarities between Buddhist and Jungian concepts of spirit, matter and time have already emerged from the comparisons made in the three previous paragraphs. Let me therefore here simply conclusively stress again that, in my opinion, the Buddhist statement of the unity and reciprocal influence of physical and psychological aspects of life perfectly mirrors the Jungian principle of synchronicity (or vice versa). Both are in fact based on the conviction that psyche and matter have to be considered nothing more than different manifestations of an identical and eternal energy.

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